Red Flags that Say RUN from a Potential Client Relationship

As a freelance writer, you truly don’t have to take every job or gig opportunity that comes your way. Really. Why? Because you only have a finite amount of time and energy to share with other people.

Some clients are going to hog all your energy. What are examples of this?

  • Your client grabbing you to talk long-winded stories into your ear that have nothing to do with the writing assignment they asked for.
  • Clients who assume you’ll be available to them on the day that they ask.
  • Clients who take the scope of the project outside the realm of what was agreed upon and then don’t want to compensate for your additional hours put in.
  • Clients who pressure you to work more than you have agreed to based on how you live and divide your time.

Are all of the above listed potential headaches worth the pay? Maybe not. That’s your call to make, though. Remember that you are not tied to every person who comes knocking on your door.

I was just talking with a coach, telling her about a freelance gig site I was enjoying working for. She said in response,

“Wouldn’t you rather work for someone you know?”

Know is relative. I can know you in a professional sense. But I don’t need to know about your family, who you’re dating, what your kids are up to today. Those are nice little details that help you determine if a person is living a wholesome life and can be trusted. But you don’t need a daily peek into those details of your clients. It’s distracting and it takes time away from the work at hand. And also… your client doesn’t have to know what your home work environment is looking like today. As long as the goal is achieved, it’s not necessary for him or her to know how you arrived there and by what means or where from.

One thing to watch out for is if a client tries to initiate a symbiotic relationship with you. This is something that you can get relief from if you just focus on getting gigs but not clients. Gigs have their own set of challenges to deal with, but they’re non-committal in a way.

In a symbiotic relationship with a client, the client tries to influence your emotional state by injecting unwanted opinions about how you do things. They might have a positive emotional response to something that you’re doing one minute, and a negative response the next. There may be an underlying tone of condescension. After a while, it kinda feels like they’re clinging on to you. These are important dynamics to watch out for.

Be careful if a client starts trying to influence you to buy things, or do things the way they want, or serve them in some way that benefits them, not you or your situation.

Just know that you’re free to gently ease away from a client who takes up too much of your time and energy. You might know this type of person already. Maybe you dated someone who takes up all of your time or tries to manipulate you so you identify with that as being something you don’t want to attract. But do you identify when it happens with clients? A client relationship can be a little bit like dating but without the fun part.

One way to avoid red flag clients is know the way that you prefer to work and set that boundary for yourself.

I work as a copywriter. That means that I write all day long. I type on a computer. Sometimes I dictate what I’d like to say because I’m out and about doing mom related activities. That’s how I work. How do you work? Remember that as a freelancer you get to decide that.

I literally just came across a person who wanted me to do a Zoom meeting for them. I don’t want to Zoom, not at this time. Why? I’m a writer. They wanted to set up a camera where we could watch each other working and do an over the shoulder pow-wow.

That’s not for me. Why? I’m a mom who writes. I need my time to remain available so I can write for people. One Zoom meeting turns into five, turns into 25 and now I’m Zooming instead of writing. No thank you.

That kind of engagement is a waste of my valuable time and it’s also a distraction from the task at hand. If you want to really produce, you should laser focus on the task and not put yourself in a situation where you and or the client are undermining how each person works. Over the shoulder glimpses at people at their computers are not necessary to get a job done. But they are a great way to micromanage.

Remember the free in freelance.

You’re free to leave. You’re free to pursue the types of client relationships that work with your current situation.

In the ideal scenario, you establish a friendly rapport with a client where each of you respects the other person’s boundaries.

Of course the opposite is possible. You go on job sites and you feel alienated from establishing any sort of connection with a client. And they basically have no loyalty to you because they’re just hunting for the next available and capable writer who comes along. But if you’re okay with that, then it can work.

Again, first and foremost, figure out if the scenario works for your situation. If you’re a parent, you’re juggling many priorities in a single day and so the disconnected client relationship could be perfect for you. A situation that benefits you now but that you can freely walk away from could just be your perfect scenario.

Maybe in 5 years you’ll want that symbiotic relationship with a client. Maybe the pay will be worth it for you to give your soul to another person’s dream.

But today we are in the here and now, and if a client is saying and doing things that put up red flags for you then you need to back out before you go in deeper.

Money is the tie that binds you, so don’t be afraid to cut the tie or say no to the money.

Once money is exchanged you’re a little more tied in. Money is the thread that connects people. So is love. Isn’t that ironic. So if you want to cut ties, sever the money connection and you’re good. You can even decide that you don’t care if a person owes you money because it’s more important just to ditch them.

On a final note, remember that even if you’re a freelance writer you’re not locked into only serving clients or only taking freelance gigs. There’s a wealth of opportunity in selling eBooks and digital products online. People don’t realize that. They’re locked into one way of thinking.

Look for other means of attracting wealth.

Open your mind to the things that people might want. If you’re a writer, will they buy articles from you? Do they want to buy pre-written blog posts? If you’re a designer, maybe they want customizable templates. Try to think out of the box. Let go of your dependence on the client relationship especially if it seems potentially toxic.

That’s my advice today for all you freelance writers out there. Go forth and spread intelligence.